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Q & A: Safe Harbor’s Sara Jean Atkins

How long have you been working at Safe Harbor? What’s the story behind you working there? I’ve been there 5 years.  I was owner and Director of Kiddie Korner Day Care here in Greenville for 22 years and then worked in the office at Greenville Academy until they closed.  After Katrina, I decided to volunteer at the Department of Human Resouces (DHR) and thought I would be there about a week.  But they asked me to be the Housing Coordinator for the evacuees and it turned into working two months.   As that job came to an end,  DHR Social Worker Lesa Syler (who is now Butler County DHR Supervisor) recommended that I check next door at Safe Harbor about volunteering.  I talked to Kathy Smyth, Director and began volunteering there….but it wasn’t long before they asked me to become a part-time employee, and this year begins my 6th. year.   I love my job and working with Kathy and the Counselors at Safe Harbor!

What do you enjoy most about your job? I’m the first person the children see when they come in for their interviews or counseling.  I love making them feel at home with all the toys, movies, books, looking at the fish in the big fish tank, and just talking to them and helping them not be afraid. The first time they come, they always get to pick a stuffed animal to take home and a surprise from the treasure chest. They always have a big smile, and that’s so rewarding!

What is the biggest challenge in your work? It was a very eye-opening experience when I first started at Safe Harbor to see the number of children in Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties that have been through physical, emotional or sexual abuse.  Many children are affected by divorce and even death of a family member.  One of my biggest challenges is to help the children feel at home…so they will feel comfortable enough to talk about the situation.

You have helped plan and put on several special fundraising events through Safe Harbor. Discuss these, please. I was Chairman of the “Taste of Greenville” Cookbook.  They are still at several places all over Greenville so be sure to get one…they have lots of great recipes.  I helped plan the “Taster’s Dinner” using recipes from the cookbook.  Last year my friend Betty Thomas and I planned our first “Tablescapes Luncheon”.  It turned out fantastic, so save the date – mark your calendars…the 2011 Tablescapes Luncheon will be at noon on April 30th. at LBW.  And the most popular fundraiser has to be our famous “Chicken Salad Box Lunches”.  We will be doing that again for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th.  So ya’ll get ready to order!

You are also active in your church, Southside. How long have you been attending and what are some of the things you are involved with there? I’ve been attending Southside for 32 years.  During these years, I have been a 3rd. grade Sunday School teacher, Nursery Coordinator, VBS Food Chairman, Relay for Life committee member, Women on Mission Director and member, and the most rewarding group I belong to is the Committee that helps fix and serve food to members that have lost loved ones.  This is a great ministry to our church family.

What  sorts of activities, interests, hobbies are you involved with in your spare time? I love flowers…and in the spring I get the “flower fever” and love to plant them.  But I’m not crazy about watering, so they have to be hardy ones.  I love to bake cakes and share with my friends, especially at Christmas.  I love spending time with my family and friends, especially my grandchildren and great-niece, Tana Long.  I enjoyed the GHS Old Gym Players CSI: Neverland this past year.    Tana played Tinker Belle and I’m looking forward to their Spring Musical.

How long have you and Floyd been married and how did you meet?  What’s your favorite thing about him? Be kind!! Floyd and I have been married 40 years today (January 29th.)  We met through friends on a “blind date”. My favorite thing about Floyd….well – he’s kind, sweet, understanding, funny, caring & very generous!!  You did say be kind!!  Actually, I’m truly blessed to have him and I thank the Lord each day for him and my family!

Children—grandchildren? Pets? Floyd and I have two sons, Michael (38) and Jeffrey who will be (34) on the 4th. of February.  We have three grandchildren – Hannah (16), Davis (10) and Mary Cameron who was kept in Heaven January 28th.  She would have been 12 years old yesterday.  Michael and Davis live in Auburn. Hannah lives in Montgomery with her Mom. Jeffrey and Kim live in Montgomery with our Grand-Dog PeeWee.

Sara Jean Atkins of Safe Harbor.